Friday, October 9, 2009

Border fence funds pulled at request of lawmakers

By GARY MARTIN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

Oct. 8, 2009, 11:42PM

The provision by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was removed at the behest of House members from Texas, Arizona and California who called the fencing a waste of taxpayer money and an ineffective way to secure the border.

“We need to invest and secure our border and our land ports without being tied down to an amendment that is out of touch with border needs,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who spearheaded the effort to remove the provision DeMint tucked into a Senate spending bill earlier this year.

The provision, approved 54-44 in the Senate in July, was supported by both Republican and Democratic senators from Texas, California and Arizona. New Mexico's two Democratic senators opposed the additional pedestrian fence.

The House version of the bill did not contain the provision.

Cornyn's complaint

This week, the House and Senate negotiators writing the final bill chose not to include DeMint's provision, prompting a protest from Sen. John Cornyn.

“I'm very concerned with anything that sends a signal that we're not serious about continuing to provide security along our border,” said Cornyn, R-Texas, who supported the DeMint provision.

But the Texas Border Coalition, a collective of border mayors and county officials, applauded the move. They had urged Democratic leaders in the House to remove the provision from the bill, saying the money could be better used to upgrade busy ports of entry that routinely see traffic congestion and delays.

Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, the Texas Border Coalition chairman, said the decision is the first time community leaders “have been able to defeat an effort in Congress to require fence construction.”

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